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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Dreading the Weekend

4 min read

This is a story about time as an enemy...

Clock

I suppose almost all of us live for the weekend, or the equivalent: the working week can't pass quick enough, and our precious leisure time doesn't last long enough. "Is it Monday morning already?" we ask ourselves rhetorically, with disappointment in our voices.

Not me.

Although Friday does hold a special significance for me, it is only that I have successfully completed another billable week, earning myself a chunk of cash, which takes me a step closer to financial security. Given the choice, I would work 7 days a week, in order to achieve financial security 40% quicker. I do not look forward to the weekend, at all.

Of course, it doesn't help that my social isolation has increased, from one extreme to another: I never see another soul, at evenings and at weekends. The only people I see are strangers at the supermarket. The only words I exchange - in person - are with the cashier at the checkout. Given that I shop for food roughly every three weeks, that's an existence which is more extreme than almost anybody on the planet. A goddam Tuareg in the Sahara sees more people than me; has more social contact. A goddam monk who's sworn an oath of silence has vastly more social contact than me.

could theoretically do something about it. For sure, I could join a book club; I could become a train spotter; I could develop an interest in ornithology; I could dress up as a superhero and go to comic conventions: the world is my oyster, but - so it would seem - I'm not seizing any of the infinite opportunities open to me, to build a real-world social network.

Why not?

Why am I not out there in the big wide world, making friends and meeting people?

I have, for example, deliberately decided to be single for a while. All of the COVID-19 stuff seemed to be making dating very complicated, what with various lockdowns and restrictions on the lives of single people, and besides, I wanted to lose some weight: restaurant meals and alcohol were never going to allow me to lose weight. Also, there's nothing quite as crazy-making as people. Recently, I was the victim of a tirade of abuse, for example, which was completely unprovoked; unjustified. I haven't got the time or the energy to be abused by nasty crazies. I really don't need my inbox brimming with hateful abuse, which bears no relation to anything I've ever said or done in my life. I'm quite glad to be able to ignore that kind of unjustified abuse, because I'm not looking for a girlfriend, or indeed trying to make any kind of connection with anybody: I'm just trying to survive the winter.

The hours pass painfully slowly. It would seem like any sensible person would do something, if they were suffering as badly as I claim to be, but it's not true: in my circumstances, you'd do the same thing... eyes on the prize. You too, would suffer in the short-term, even if it seemed unbearable, because you would also know that there's only one route ahead; only once choice, although it appears to completely ignorant idiots as if there are more choices. There are not. There are no other choices.

I look around at the options, and all I see is futility. I don't want to pretend that I believe in a sky monster. I don't want to pretend that I like Salsa dancing. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in trains. I don't want to pretend that I'm interested in birds. I don't even want to pretend that I'm interesting in boring and unintelligent, unambitious provincial hicks, who've never travelled and experienced other cultures, with no aptitude for free thought and certainly no capacity to entertain the notion that life should be lived in a way which is dissimilar to that of slugs, wasps and other simple beasts, like the pram-faced breeders spewing out an endless stream of pink screaming flesh into a life of misery and disappointment.

Eyes on the prize: I'll never have enough money to live out my natural life at an acceptable standard of living, but mercifully I can choose the precise day of my death, to co-incide with both what is bearable, and what is affordable.

 

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Grind

4 min read

This is a story about wishing my life away...

Jeep

As a child I wanted to be a grown-up so that I could drive a car and buy whatever the heck I wanted; eat whatever I want; do whatever I want. Life has, in fact, kinda worked out for me in that regard. Life has, essentially, turned out to be everything I expected it to be. It really is child's play in fact, provided you stay true to your childish ambitions: I do, in fact, enjoy driving, expensive toys, eating whatever I want, and doing whatever I want.

I don't think I was ever so naïve as to think that things didn't have to be paid for. In fact, if there's one thing which has been front and centre of my mind, since the moment that consciousness sprang into my infant mind, it's that everything has to be paid for. You have to pay to play: I've always understood this.

As with childhood, I know that there's no other route to get where I want other than waiting. I had to wait until 17 years of age to get a full driving license, to enjoy the freedom of the road on my own. I had to wait for everything else I wanted too. I'm waiting now. My whole life is mostly waiting. Waiting for the stuff I want.

Older people, and particularly parents, are somewhat idiotic in telling children and younger people to not wish their lives away. It's moronic to tell somebody who has no freedom and cannot get what they want, that they should cherish a time of misery, suffering, deprivation and unmet want. What is there to cherish about being homeless? What is there to cherish about being hungry? What is there to cherish about having the world flaunt everything in your face, while you can only look on jealously? What is there to cherish about the impotence of having your life controlled by others? What is there to cherish in the waiting?

I've often written about this, but if I could take a pill and wake up ten years from now with no memory of the intervening decade, but all of my earnings in the bank, of course I'd take it. There's nothing I want from the present. I only want the opportunities which money can buy, which are locked up in the future, with nothing but grinding standing in the way.

Grinding is a well-understood thing, amongst younger people. In the absence of any realistic prospect of being able to afford to buy a house and start a family, it seems obvious that virtual worlds would flourish. Starting with games like The Sims, and then the infamous World of Warcraft, there has been an enormous explosion in popularity of games which aren't won per se, but instead offer a virtual reality where achievement and progress are possible, in a way which is not possible in the real world. No amount of supermarket shelf stacking will enable a young person to escape from their socioeconomic predicament - their preordained doom - and as such, it's little wonder that their tiny amount of disposable income would be frittered away on virtual objects; purchasing power so inadequate as to acquire any of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as shelter.

The gamification of life is all-pervasive. School is not about learning, but about grades to get into university. University is not about learning, it's the only route into a career without a ludicrously low glass ceiling. Jobs are not about passion or vocation, but each one a means to an end: a stepping stone on a career path towards... towards what? Towards a pension, and death hopefully. At least, hopefully, a long, painful, uncomfortable, illness-ridden, but not impoverished retirement, hopefully. At some point along the way, a partner will be acquired - whose looks and intelligence will be scored - and later there will be children who will also score points for their academic achievements. Everybody is keeping score.

The grind seems necessary, somehow. A means to an end, perhaps. Except, the summit is never reached. The goals are never achieved. There's no winning this game.

 

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No Retreat

4 min read

This is a story about one-way streets...

Balcony

An important reason why people commit suicide, which demands further discussion, is the way that life is set up so that retreat is almost impossible. Nobody ever asks for a demotion. Nobody ever asks for a pay cut. Nobody ever wants to pull their kids out of private school to put them into state school. Nobody ever wants to cut off their kids' allowance, or stop paying into a savings account for their university education. Nobody ever wants to lose their trophy partner, because they can't afford to keep them in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Nobody wants to downsize or move in with family. It's all a one-way street.

Taken in aggregate, a small bump in the road can easily be understood as something which would prompt somebody to commit suicide. While you might say to somebody who's lost their job "just get another job" it's actually much more complicated than that: most people are only one or two missed paycheques away from major financial difficulties. The whole house of cards can collapse very easily: everybody is leveraged to the max.

Of course, you might say that it's silly to get worked up about material things. "Of course" everyone would understand about having to sell the fancy car, not go on holiday, leave the fancy school, not buy the nice things, maybe not have the same opportunities. "Of course" so the saying goes "we've still got each other" except it doesn't work like that. When the money dries up, everyone fucks off, and then the vultures move in to pick any remaining flesh off the carcass.

Yes, we really do have to acknowledge that we all become highly leveraged such that relatively small problems are life-destroying, and as such, they are life-ending.

We humans are optimists by nature. We always assume that the stock market is going to keep going up, the housing market is going to keep going up, our salary is going to keep going up: everything must always go up, according to our human proclivity for optimism. It's not that people are stupid, although of course they are that too, but there's a fundamental hard-wired kind of specific stupidity I'm talking about: the tendency towards optimism, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we were beasts of pure reason and logic, we'd kill ourselves as soon as we grasped our situation: a life of pain, depression, anxiety, suffering, hard work and other unpleasantness, met with an inevitable death at the end. Why put yourself through that? Our self-preservation instincts have evolved to counteract our higher brain functions, lest our species die out, but still... why bother? It's completely illogical to live your life hoping for anything: death is inevitable; illness, pain and suffering is almost inevitable. Almost nobody dies "peacefully" in their sleep: decades of slow, painful and uncomfortable dying await us all.

Obviously, we hope to achieve symbolic immortality through our genes, passed on to our children. Or rather, our genes hope to be replicated. We are, after all, just a vessel for genes to reproduce themselves, and it would be foolish - an anthropocentric arrogant delusion of grandeur - to try to convince ourselves otherwise.

In the eternally optimistic quest for a "better life" we strive to get a bigger salary, bigger house, more attractive partner, as many kids as we can realistically feed and clothe... then we move onto status symbols, like university degrees, professional qualifications/certification, fancy cars, luxury holidays... still we are not satiated.

At some point, pretty early on in our life, we become locked into a certain destiny. Pretty much, once you've got kids, you are locked-into a certain kind of life: although you might fantasise about selling your house and living in a camper van, you never will, because you are locked in, in so many ways. Even if you're wealthy and single, you're never going to sell everything you own and become a homeless nomad. You might have gone off on a gap year, you predictable tedious middle-class wanker, but you know that any more gaps on your CV wouldn't look good on your otherwise unblemished career track-record.

Those who are unlucky enough to suffer a misfortune most often go one of two ways: they're kicked out of mainstream life, and must accept their plight trapped in the underclass forevermore, or they commit suicide. There's no other line of retreat; there's no way back, for those who err or suffer a misfortune.

This might seem like a bleak outlook, but you know it's true.

 

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A Life of Significance

4 min read

This is a story about having skin in the game...

Signpost

While I often spew words of harsh derision for those who seemingly make foolish decisions, or otherwise exhibit - in my opinion - extraordinary fuckwittery, wasting astonishing amounts of time and money, I must acknowledge that almost everyone I work with does care to some extent about delivering a good outcome. I don't have the misfortune of working with anybody, who absolutely doesn't care a single bit about their work. It's unkind, unfair and untrue to represent things that way.

Conversely, I have decided to hang my hat on the particular project I'm working on, because it somehow seems worthy of my precious attention. If that sounds arrogant, that's exactly how I intended it to come across. For sure, it's arrogant as heck to assume that I would have anything worthwhile to contribute to anything. How arrogant of me to assume that my worth is anything other than zero. In fact, I spent a long time feeling worthless. I spent a long time feeling that there was no opportunity to feel anything other than worthless. Then, one day, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself: an opportunity, in my mind, to make a mark; to prove myself valuable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Psychologically, I have pinned all my hopes and dreams on the outcome of one particular project. I have decided that if I can play a role in making that project successful, then I will be somewhat vindicated. This is my opportunity to prove that my troubled past is well and truly done and dusted, and I'm back on my feet, in no uncertain terms. If I can make this project succeed, as much as is possible within my powers, then my achievement will be great enough to deflect, defeat, repel and reject all nay-sayers and doubters; all my critics will be crushed by my almighty victory.

Of course, I acknowledge the toxic soup which whirls in my brain, combining delusions of grandeur, inferiority complexes, guilty conscience, shame, regret and a catalogue of horrendous blunders. I acknowledge that really, being a very small cog in a very big machine, changes nothing. My involvement could never be great enough to absolve me of my sins. My contribution could never be great enough to elevate me from the stinking gutter, which I sank into due to my own flaws and depravity; my own evilness and patheticness; my own uselessness and poor choices have doomed me, and there's no escaping the consequences of my own actions.

However.

I've never let reality get in the way of a good story before, so why would I start now? The project has given me a reason to live, when I had lived without reason for so long. Why shouldn't I fantasise about the importance of the project, and in turn, my own importance, if it keeps me alive; if it gives me purpose and self-esteem? Why shouldn't I have a reason to live, purpose, motivation, self-esteem, pride and all the other things which other people have enjoyed their whole lives? Why shouldn't I have those things?

We could easily sit back in our armchairs sneeringly and cynically criticising, saying that everyone who ever wanted to feel proud about something was a monster; saying that it's vanity and conceit which motivates me; saying that - basically - I'm just a bad person with nothing to offer the world, and any attempt I might make to contribute does nothing of the sort... I'm incapable of contributing and I shouldn't even try; I should just shuffle away into some dark hole and die. Yes, that would be very easy to say that. Yes, that's what all those armies of critics are saying, cynically, sneeringly, from the comfort of their armchairs.

Sure, yes, I'm conceited and arrogant for wanting to feel like I made a meaningful contribution to something great, before I died. Sure, yes, it's an idiotic fantasy; a delusion of grandeur. Sure, yes, you're right, I'm a horrible human being, with nothing to offer. Sure, yes, you're right, I should just shut the fuck up.

Also, no. No I will not. No I will not shut up and no I will not stop.

 

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Always On

4 min read

This is a story about following the sun...

Kitten and pen

I've worked for plenty of global organisations. I've worked on plenty of projects which have spanned time zones. I've worked with teams of people, collaborating from the four corners of the planet. I have plenty of experience working at places where the hours are long. However, I always used to be quite strict about work/life balance. I used to be appalled by the idea of an organisation infringing into my personal time. Not anymore.

That I might be expected to be on-call was something which overstepped the mark: back when I used to be a poorly paid junior, climbing up the rungs of the corporate ladder, the idea that I would give any more time to a company which was already exploiting me, was outrageous; I rejected it aggressively. The idea that I would pick and choose when to take my holidays, depending upon the demands of the project(s) I was working on, was something I rejected, in the strongest possible terms.

What changed?

Well, for sure, if you pay me enough then you will get my undivided attention. If you pay enough, you can buy most of me. If you pay enough, I will be dedicated.

Also, there aren't that many projects which are interesting, challenging, and frankly worthy of my time. I'm not going to give up my evenings, weekends and preferred holiday dates, for the sake of some meaningless busywork; no way.

So, what happened?

Well, obviously, the magic double: decent pay and a decent project.

The problem is, that I always assume that with enough hard work, I can conquer any [tech] problem. This is mostly true, but most of my problems are not tech. The tech is fine. It's the people and the politics which are the problem. I don't understand why anybody would hire highly paid experts, and then ignore their advice. I mean, if you want to screw something up and create a complete disaster that wastes loads of money, you sure don't need or want my help to do that. The problem is, that I will try to make things successful which is a direct conflict of interest with the fuckwits who want everything to fail disastrously. Sure, the fuckwits 'pay my wages' effectively, so you'd think that they could pay me to fuck things up, but that's not really how I work. I'm not in the business of fucking up projects, I'm afraid, no matter how much you pay me.

I'm burning myself out, trying to make a big project successful, despite the very best efforts of a whole raft of fuckwits who are determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I've been extraordinarily quick, in order to try to sneak through some success while they weren't looking, but unfortunately they noticed that things were going to succeed, and have swung into action, destroying everything in sight. Of course, I find it very hard not to try to fend off that kind of vandalism; that kind of sabotage. I find it very hard to break the habit of a lifetime: making large software projects succeed, in spite of the army of fuckwits.

Things were going alright. Everything was under control. I mean, it hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been very hard either. I've worked very hard for a sustained period of time, but the hard work was paying off: the project was running on time; everything was going smoothly. Of course the fuckwits were going to swing into action. Of course they would try their very best to sabotage, vandalise and otherwise destroy any chance that the project would succeed. My mistake was to assume that we were working together to achieve a successful outcome; that they would be pleased that things were going to succeed, not fail.

I find it very hard to switch off. I find it impossible to concentrate, when I'm supposed to be enjoying some rest & relaxation. I can't sleep. My life revolves around one thing, and one thing only: trying to make the gigantic project a success, in spite of the enormous efforts to ruin it.

I'm a bit of a workaholic bore, sorry.

 

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Useful Idiot

5 min read

This is a story about technocrats...

Desk

I wish I could tell you more about my day job, but I can't. I can't even tell you who my main client is, or generally what the project is that I'm working on. I mean, technically I could tell you the organisation and project, but then anybody searching for my name and that project or organisation would be brought right here, immediately, which wouldn't be helpful. I can't tell you any detail about my day, because it would probably breach code of conduct, and possibly some laws too, depending on what I told you.

Anyway.

I hate when people try to be super mysterious, and generally allude to the fact that what they do for a living is exciting; like they're James fucking Bond, or something. No, it's much more boring than that, as this quote that I love explains very well:

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." -- C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

What I'm working on for the majority of my working week, is benign, most people would agree. A colleague reads my blog, openly, not secretly, and they said that they agree with me: the project, and indeed the work of the organisation is benign in their opinion too. It's hard to see how what we're doing is not benign, but we should explore the topic with a little more of an open mind.

Something which you might pay little heed to, but will be well aware of if you've ever been unwell, is that there is a vast mountain of administrative headache, which has to be ploughed through, simply for the privilege of being alive. Even though all my bills are paid via direct debit from my bank account, or auto-renewal straight from my debit card, or some other way of money disappearing constantly from my pocket, still that's not enough. The council will write to me demanding that I tell them who lives in my house, even though I already told them. The car insurance company demanding to see proof that I've never claimed on my policy, even though it is them who administers the policy. Somebody, somewhere, at all times, is expecting me to do something for them, on pain of fine, prosecution... prison even.

The United Kingdom is ostensibly a very difficult place to live, unmolested. If you were hoping to live here, simply paying your rent/mortgage and bills, and expecting that would be enough, you are very wrong: an endless stream of bureaucratic obligations will bombard you, every single day. There are reams of forms which need to be filled in in triplicate; numerous permits, licenses, notices and interminable obligations, which are met with extremely harsh penalties if these constant intrusions into your life are not dealt with immediately.

Each organisation which contacts you thinks that its demands are not onerous, which is true. Taken individually, each task is not particularly difficult or time-consuming. However, when all these small tasks are added together, the demand is huge: I really don't give a shit whether I'm doing my tax return or revising the electoral roll... both tasks are equally irksome; equally intruding into my time, effort and energy. For highly functional people, they perhaps don't notice this burden, but those who are sick - speaking from personal experience - will find it overwhelming, to the point of driving a person to suicide.

While it might seem ridiculous - improbable - that these 'easy' jobs might tip somebody over the edge, to the point that they'd end their own life, if you consider the harsh penalties which are attached to all of these things, they can all threaten to ruin your life. An unpaid parking ticket can lead to £15,000 of court costs and other expenses, which would bankrupt most people. Other minor administrative oversights, like failing to tell the council that your flatmate moved out, could lead to thousands of pounds of fines, and perhaps even a criminal conviction. Cumulatively, I'm sure that you could end up with a very big police criminal record, and be bankrupted many times, simply because you weren't able to open your mail for a few months, because you were sick.

The letters keep dropping on your doormat, and every single one is demanding money with menaces. Every single one of those letters is threatening to lock you up, take away your home, take away your livelihood, take away your children, take away your pets, take away your transport; threatening to bankrupt you, and wreck your chance of ever having a home ever again; having a job ever again. It's a pretty shitty state of affairs, that we can do that to people, who just want/need to be left alone.

 

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Dumbest Guy in the Room

4 min read

This is a story about being opinionated...

Boardroom

I cannot shut up. I will not shut up. I could not shut up, even if I wanted to. Sometimes I do want to shut up, although my colleagues would probably snort with laughter at such a notion. In fact, sometimes I can force myself to shut up, a little bit, but it doesn't last very long.

The problem is, that thoughts pop into my head - relevant, useful thoughts - which then spew out of my mouth, after only a moment of hesitation to see if anybody else is going to say anything. To say that I engage my mouth before my brain is quite untrue. In fact, my brain is very thoroughly engaged, meaning that I seem to have ample time to process everything that's being said, think of something relevant and useful, to deliberately hesitate to think about who else might have something they want or need to say, and also to simply give other people a chance to make a contribution... then having completed that process, I speak.

The way that people act in large organisations is weird. Whenever there's a large meeting, like a town hall, whenever somebody asks "any questions?" there's an unwritten rule that nobody is supposed to ask any questions. I follow that rule, because otherwise I'd be hated by my colleagues. I mean, more hated than I am already for being so outspoken.

I've started to get really bored of the sound of my own voice. I very much dislike hearing myself so much. I worry a great deal about how much I talk, versus most of my other colleagues.

I'm the dumb guy in the room. I'm the guy who doesn't seem to realise that we all get paid anyway, whether I make a contribution or not; that we all get paid anyway, whether I'm paying attention or not; that we all get paid anyway... so why bother? The smart guys in the room know that it's best to zone out, switch off, not contribute, keep schtum, and just hope that it somehow makes the working day pass a little more quickly.

It doesn't.

If you go to lots and lots of interminable boring meetings, for sure you don't want to prolong them for any longer than they absolutely must do. For sure, there are good reasons for hating the desperately ambitious people, who ask questions for the sake of making an impression with the more senior members of staff in the organisation, when everybody in the room really wants to go to lunch or go home. For sure, it's idiotic to waste so many people's time, showing off to a roomful of colleagues.

But.

I'm able to get out of bed in the morning because I care about the project I'm working on. When I don't care, the depression is so bad that I can't get up; I can't face it; I can't face the boredom.

I don't know how people do it. How do people, for years and years, turn up at an office for 40+ hours a week, just to make up the numbers; just to be zoned out and not interested in making a contribution?

For sure, there's a difference in how assertive people are. For sure, I'm at the extreme end of assertive, bordering on downright aggressive: I will be heard. For sure, I must be drowning others, more hesitant than I, out of the conversation; out of the discussion.

It's a dumb move. Work is, primarily, a popularity contest. Promotions are based on how much a person is liked by their superiors, not on merit, qualifications, experience, hard work, grit, determination, attitude, or any of the other bullshit which we're told is what promotions are based on. No. Sorry. Wrong. It's all based on popularity. If you want to get promoted, you must be popular with those who are making the promotion decision. It's that simple. No exceptions.

Mercifully, I don't want to be promoted. I'm already director of my own company. I can't be promoted: I'm already the top dog; the main man; the head honcho.

Mercifully, I don't have to play the corporate game. I can just get on with my job, as a professional, which means being as productive and useful as possible, to ensure a successful project outcome.

Sure, I'd like to be popular as well, but I find it's hard to be effective, productive and be popular: the two are often mutually exclusive.

I definitely don't want to be an asshole though. That would suck.

 

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Overdue Holiday

4 min read

This is a story about stamina...

Me

It's been over 13 months since I had a holiday. My holiday plans for last year got really screwed up. I need to have a couple of winter holidays, for mental health reasons - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exacerbates my bipolar, and can make me suicidally depressed, as was proven last Christmas. I ended up spending Christmas and New Year in a hospital bed, instead of on a beach, because that's what happens.

Of course I can technically keep working for years, without a holiday. The problem is, I get tired and irritable, which damages my relationship with my colleagues. Nobody wants to work with somebody who's tired and irritable.

The past 13+ months haven't just been a continuous slog at work, without a holiday. The past 13+ months have included an enormous amount of work on a very high-profile project of national importance. There's a lot of pressure. Sure, I thrive on pressure, but not everybody's going to be a fan of my style, when I'm tired and stressed, which is to not suffer any fools gladly; I can be extremely impatient and intolerant of fuckwits.

Of course, if I get the chance to keep working on the project I've been involved with for a long time, then I'm going to have to look after myself. I'm going to have to take some holidays. My health - mental and physical - demands that I take some holidays.

In a lot of ways, it's great for colleagues to have the consistency of me being around, all the time. In other ways, it's bad for me to be around all the time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and familiarity breeds contempt etc.

One of the bosses who I admired the most, even if I didn't particularly like him, was notoriously short-tempered and impatient. He was extremely quick-witted and blazingly quick at everything he did. I always swore I would never ape his demeanour, because it wasn't very pleasant for colleagues, but when I came to building and running my first startup, I admit that I had a very sharp tongue; I reduced my co-founder to tears.

The boss who I attempt to copy, is a guy who was a 'shit umbrella' for the team: he fended off all the pressure, and kept the workload and general demands at a reasonable level, so that the engineering team could work without unhelpful and annoying people hanging around saying "is it done yet?" constantly. He used to give estimates which were extremely conservative - being over-optimistic, over-promising, will always lead to stress, pressure, being rushed, and ultimately a poor quality, late and disappointing outcome. My ex-boss created a great environment to work in, and I'll never forget that.

As discussed at length, I'm desperate to achieve financial security, and as such there's a great temptation to never take any holiday, when I suffer a double-whammy financial blow when I take a holiday: the loss of earnings AND the cost of the holiday. Of course, it's a false economy if I end up getting sick or losing my job, because I've overworked myself, but I've always taken things to the extreme.

I have no idea how or when I'm going to take a holiday, especially in the context of a second-wave of Coronavirus and the subsequent second lockdown. Already, the UK has more new cases than the UK's own threshold for quarantining visitors from another country. I feel pretty certain that I would end up spending my entire holiday in the hotel room, under quarantine. Another consideration is that I'm now single, and as such, would be holidaying alone, which I would hate.

I do need to take a holiday, and I will always find a way to achieve something if I set my mind to it, but there are many reasons not to take a holiday - money, coronavirus - and the prospect of being abroad, alone, is not enthusing me to the idea.

 

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Sobriety Cost Me My Job

4 min read

This is a story about stability...

Coke bottles

In 2015, a bet with a friend, that I could stop drinking for 100 consecutive days, cost me my job. The story is a little bit more complicated than the simple summary I've given, but that's about the long and the short of it.

The brain has a tendency to rebound. That is to say, if you've been very calm, then your brain will rebound and make you anxious. If you've been very happy, then your brain will rebound and make you depressed. Well, mine does anyway.

Mind-altering substances can be destabilising - for me - but they can also be stabilising. For many productive years, I used a combination of stimulants and CNS depressants - caffeine and alcohol - to manage my mood. If I was going too high, I would drink booze to tamp things down, and if I was going too low, I could drink coffee to pep me up. It was a crude system, but it worked.

In terms of how my colleagues perceive me, they like me best when I'm hungover, because I'm quiet and I'm not argumentative. They like me least when I'm hopped up on caffeine, because I'm overly garrulous and quarrelsome. However, I've managed to get through decades of a very successful career in this manner, without any issue.

The issues have come when I've stopped using things like alcohol and caffeine to regulate my mood.

Stopping caffeine was beneficial. I sleep better and I'm more productive; more creative. Sure, if I needed to do a lot of very repetitive easy work, caffeine would help me concentrate, but most of the work I do is very difficult, requiring a lot of flexible thinking - caffeine is not the right tool for the job.

Stopping alcohol has been massively detrimental. I swing between periods of paralysis, where anxiety stops me from doing anything, and periods of irritability. If I'm hung over, I'm happy to coast along and keep quiet. With a clear head I often have little patience, when I'm particularly tired and stressed. Stopping alcohol makes me massively tired, because I don't sleep well.

Once the first couple of sober weeks have passed, I start to have too much energy, very much like when I've had too much coffee. My thoughts race and I'm irritated by dimwits who test my patience to the limit. I struggle with the glacial pace of large organisations, more than ever, when my brain is functioning particularly well, free from hangover or otherwise dulled by alcohol abuse.

It's hugely advantageous, if one must work with dimwits, to chemically lobotomise yourself using alcohol. It's too painful to drag dimwits along, or be held back all the time; it's too frustrating; too time-wasting. Without alcohol, the sheer incompetence and lack of productivity of most of the brainless idiots who bimble along in the corporate world, is unbearable.

Of course I'm somewhat plagued by an underlying mood disorder which predisposes me towards delusions of grandeur and irritability with dimwits, but alcohol really helps. Alcohol has helped me in my career for decades. Without alcohol, I would have gone of and done something interesting but far less lucrative, years ago. I'm extremely well paid, because I'm bribed to work with dimwits. I'm extremely well paid because it's excruciatingly boring waiting for the penny to drop in the hamster-wheel that serves as a brain in some of the dimwits that I work with.

In all honesty, I don't work with many dimwits. I do like my colleagues. There are just one or two who really try my patience and I have so little patience, now that I'm sober.

Sobriety sucks. Sobriety conflicts with my career; my employability; my likability. I need to take a break from drinking though, for the sake of my physical health. I'm about halfway though my month of sobriety, which I'm taking to give my body a break from the damaging onslaught of alcohol.

Hopefully I'll push through this difficult period and become a bit less irritable at work. Hopefully I won't lose my job, again.

 

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All You Have to do is Nothing

4 min read

This is a story about boredom...

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What if I offered you a six-figure salary to do nothing? Would you take it? Of course you'd take it, right? Think of all the great stuff you could buy with a six-figure income. Think of what a great house and car you could buy. Think of all the holidays you could have. Think of all the lovely things that money would buy.

Wrong.

Firstly, going on holiday is not "doing nothing". If you're on holiday, you won't be earning your six-figure salary: you're only paid for the time you're doing nothing.

Fine, you say.

But.

You're going to have to spend some time doing nothing, in order to get your hands on the money. How much time do you think you could spend doing nothing in any given year? Assuming that you spend about 5 weeks each year on holiday, that means you'll have to spend 47 weeks doing nothing. That's achievable, right?

Wrong.

It's a lot harder doing nothing than doing something. You might not realise this - because you've never had to do nothing - but it's the hardest thing in the world. Perhaps if you work as a security guard or a solidier, you might be able to legitimately claim that you've got first-hand experience of doing nothing, but that's not true. It's well known that doing nothing is impossible, so security guards and soldiers get paired up or given 'lone worker' tasks to do, in order to break the monotony of the task.

In fact, every time you were bored, you just walked out of that job and went and got another one; every time your situation was uncomfortable, you changed it. Your entire life consists of chatting to people, making cups of tea/coffee and undertaking a variety of tasks. You never do nothing.

Doing nothing pays the most money.

Boredom is directly proportional to remuneration; the more boring a job is, the more you get paid (with the exception of being a security guard, perhaps). Maybe it's like a 'U' shape actually - there are really badly paid jobs which are boring, and the best paid jobs which are boring, and the jobs in the middle are the interesting ones.

The best thing I can do at the moment is nothing. The more I keep quiet and keep my head down, the better. Far better if I avoid trouble and don't do anything - do nothing - to earn loads of money.

It's unbearable.

Most people are led by impulse and instinct, but I have to fight my gut every step of the way. If I did what 'felt' right then I would quit what I'm doing and just figure things out - anything's better than being trapped doing nothing, bored. Of course, I would miss the 'easy' money, so I keep going, because my head says it's the right thing to do. I know that the suffering will yield vast financial compensation, even if the means of achieving it are intolerable.

I suppose you think that it's a nice problem to have but you'd be mistaken. We can all prostitute ourselves, or otherwise do work which is toxic to our dignity, sense of wellbeing, sense of achievement, mental health etc. Of course, some sex workers are happy doing what they're doing, so use your imagination: you could earn a lot of money doing crime if you wanted to.

If you think what I'm writing is entitled and whingey, fuck off. If you're thinking "we all have to suffer a little boredom occasionally" then you're right... "occasionally". When it becomes your full-time job to be bored out of your mind, then it goes beyond 'normal' and moves into the territory of an extreme health hazard; a threat to life.

Of course I can see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I can also see the broken glass and razor blades I have to crawl over to get there. Sure, I probably will get there in the end, but I'm going to whine and complain the whole way, because it's a ridiculous waste of time, energy and talent, to have a person tormented - in agony - with insufferable boredom.

 

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